Monday, December 11, 2006

IE7 menu location

Maybe I'm just a old fart who likes his menu to be where every other application has their menus, but IE7's menu position (underneath the address bar) drives me nuts. To change this and move it back to the top, set the follow registry key to 1 (add the DWORD value if it doesn't exists):


Sunday, December 10, 2006

TrueImage backup software

One of the reasons I bought the new HDD was so that I can have a place to set up more regular backups, and not have to manually backup to removable media as often. I want to setup an automated backup schedule with me doing a full backup to DVDs only every so often.

I mounted the drive on the Linux box and set up access to it through SAMBA since I want to back up files that are on the Windows machines also. I started looking around for a backup solution for Windows. There is always the basic backup tool that comes with the OS, and I also have Acronis TrueImage that I got a while back to create a bootable image of one of my test windows box so I don't have to reinstall Windows everytime.

Acronis is pretty full featured and allows setting up backups based only on files that have changed which is what I wanted. Before I installed it though, I looked at what kind of things it puts on the computer and saw that it added 4 processes to the startup list (1 service, 3 running in the registry's run section):
TrueImageMonitor.exe : "provides the interface between running Acronis True Image tasks and the user. It allows to observe the tasks progress and cancel the running tasks. It is started when a user logs into the system and terminates when the user logs off." -- Acronis Support

Timountermonitor.exe : "observes the tasks concerning an image mounting (exploring).
These programs are not required by Acronis True Image to perform its tasks, and can be terminated if you think it occupies too much memory, but you will loose the ability to control running Acronis True Image tasks." -- Acronis Support
Schedhlp.exe - "Acronis scheduling service helper. This program monitors the logons and logoffs in the running system and notifies Acronis scheduling service about them. It is started when a user logs into the system and terminates when the user logs off. Acronis True Image uses this program to schedule tasks on user logon/logoff and to run non-scheduled "Image creation" operation." -- Acronis Support
Schedul2.exe -- "Acronis scheduling service. This service is started on the computer startup and remains active until the computer is turned off. It is used by Acronis software to start scheduled tasks. Note that Acronis True Image always schedule image creation tasks, even if you start the "Image creation" operation. Thus if you stop Acronis scheduling service, then you loose the ability to create images in Windows." -- Acronis Support

Digging around the support forums, it sounded like schedul2.exe is the only one that is critical, but the descriptions aren't exactly clear. It sounds like when a process gets kicked off, the TrueImageMonitor is what allows an users to abort it. The Timountermonitor has something to do when you mount an archive as if it was another directory on your drive. Schedhlp is the most confusing as I'm not sure what it would want to do when a user logs in-and-out. One post said he couldn't get TrueImage to run backups when the computer shutdown unless this was on which makes sense if he created an event to occur when he logs (i.e. shutdown).

I'm gonna play around with it, but if anyone has a better understanding or recommendation about backups let me know.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Seagate External USB/Firewire HDD

This weekend I got myself the 750 GB Seagate Dual Interface (USB2.0/Firewire) External HDD [ST3750640CB-RK]. I looked around at the various external enclosures and internal HDD combination, but since Best Buy was selling the drive with an instant $100 rebate and I had a discount coupon the price came out better.

Seagate Picture

The drive's spec is pretty good:

  • 7200 RPM

  • 16MB Cache

  • 2 lb. 9.5 oz.

  • USB 2.0 port

  • Firewire (IEEE1394a) port

The drive is pretty compact and feels solid in my hands. It comes with a stand so you can have it sit upright or flat if you wanted to stack them. The problem is that there are no rubber feet if you do lay it out flat so it'll slide around on a smooth surface.

The drive is formatted as FAT32 and comes with a one-push button that will start a back-up program if you use it with Windows. I didn't try it with Windows but instead connected to my Linux server.

Setting it up was very simple and involved plugging it into the electrical outlet and connecting the USB cable from the drive to the computer. My Linux box didn't automount the drive, but I was able to check that linux can see it using "fdisk -l". This will return the device name that can be use to manually mount the drive:
mount -t vfat [device name]

Once I knew it was working, I decided that since I will primarily use it with Linux that I'll format it to use ext3 instead of FAT32 so it can understand UNIX file permissions. Unmount the drive and format using:
/sbin/mke2fs -j [device name]

This will erase everything on the drive and make use ext3 (ext2 + journaling). The process was very quick although it uses up a bit more space then FAT32. Once I was done formatting, the drive showed 688 Gb total and 198 Mb used. I think the default FAT32 had 699 Gb total.

Once it looks like everything is working, I added an entry into my /etc/fstab so that the drive will get mounted.

I'm debating whether I should use the fstab or whether to use automount, but this is a minor thing. Otherwise, the drive seems to operate seemlessly with Linux. I now need to get my other machines to back up files to the new drive.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chicago Bears

Man, where's the love?  Why the constant "overrated" flag that many sports writers keep pinning on the NFC North leader?  Before the season, I doubt any of them pick the Bears to be Superbowl contenders, so the fact that they're leading the NFC should really mean that they're beating expectations.  Instead, it's a constant "they are who we thought they are."  (To this day, I'm still trying to understand Dennis Green's quote.  Is he saying that the he thought the Bears was a good but not perfect team who will beat his Cardinals?  If that's the case, yes, the Bears showed flaws and did beat them even without an offensive touchdown...).

Friday, November 24, 2006

fedora core 6

This weekend, I decided to upgrade to Fedora Core 6 since M sent it to me on DVD. This would be the first time I've "upgraded" to a new version rather then start with a clean install and I was curious as to how clean it would be. As we all know, Windows can be a nightmare to upgrade and it's often easier to just do a clean install and re-install all the data and application.

My system was a Shuttle SN95GV3 with a Athlon 3500+ (64bit) CPU with Fedora Core 5. I haven't customized it very much and beyond my original spec that I detailed previously with the exception that I added another 1Gig of memory for a total of 2 Gigs. I've installed most software through yum and kept up with the latest packages.

Before I started, I ran yum update just to make sure I got the latest packages on FC5 in case the upgrade had some dependencies (don't think this actually mattered). I popped in the FC6 DVD and rebooted. I selected "upgrade" from the menu (as opposed to clean install) and from there it was pretty automatic. I had to verify a couple of settings in the menu (language, keyboard, etc.) by clicking "Next" and then it started the upgrade.
It took about 1.5 hours before everything was installed and ready for a reboot. The system came up fine until it tried to load up X which it failed because of nvidia video driver (I was using Nvidia's from livna rather then the stock nv driver). I didn't worry too much about this and just ran yum update since I figured it didn't have the latest version for the kernel that fc6 uses. Yum identified nearly 700megs of files that needed to be downloaded and updated so I said ok and let it run. I ran into one problem with the yum update because of a dependency problem with OpenOffice. This was resolved by me telling it to not update OpenOffice. Everything else got updated and following a reboot, I was back into X where I uninstalled the existing Open Office and then had it install the latest version.

My previous settings were all preserved and everything seemed to be working and then I noticed something... In the GUI boot up message, I noticed the following error message:


FATAL: Error inserting ...acpi_cpu_freq.ko .... No such device

Now, this is wierd... I never seen this in FC5 and FC6 still worked even though it had this error. After some research, I discovered that the error came from the cpuspeed daemon which I don't remember using before so I suspect it was activated through the FC6 upgrade. This daemon is what will switch the speed of the CPU depending on load to save energy and battery life. I decided to turn this service off even though it should be working since the Athlon has the Cool 'n' Quiet feature.

Two things bothered me, though, and I spent quite a bit of time researching even though they weren't critical to the workings of the server. First, the error message I saw only was in the GUI boot message display. Nothing was written to the log and somehow the boot.log file in FC isn't updated. I'm not sure why that is, but seems to happen in Fedora.

Second, why was cpufreq failing even if I didn't want to use it? In the logs that was written to, I noticed this:

powernow-k8: BIOS error - no PSB or ACPI _PSS objects

Research on the web seems to point that the kernel was having problems with Cool 'n' Quiet. Since this fails, it's no wonder cpuspeed failed later. I couldn't find any solution other then to try to upgrade the BIOS. This caused me two dilemmas. First, I never put in a bootable floppy drive in the Shuttle. Second, Shuttle makes it so hard to 1) find the bios version and 2) enable/disable Cool 'n' Quiet. For (2), people said Shuttle makes it always available if the OS supports it so there is no BIOS setting (stupid). For (1), I realize that Shuttle always show their XPC logo rather then the useful bootup messages (i.e. the BIOS version) but the way around it is to hit or unplug your keyboard so it'll stop the boot on error and display the boot messages (this work 'cause the default behaviour for the Shuttle is to stop on all errors).

I found out that my BIOS is a bit old but without a boot floppy drive I'm not sure how to upgrade the bios (might go buy a USB floppy). Whether this will fix the kernel error, I'm not certain but it's worth a shot someday.

Overall, I feel the install went extremely well and the upgrade was for the most part very smooth. It made me aware of a few problems that wasn't related to the upgrade so the bulk of my time wasn't trying to upgrade but to figure out some long standing problems.

Update: Instead of buying a USB floppy drive, I made a bootable CDROM with the latest BIOS update from Shuttle, but even after flashing the BIOS with the most recent version, I still see the same error message so it didn't seem to help.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Search Bombs

A typical morning often finds me getting online and checking the news and reading some blogs before I head to work. This past week, I read an blog written by Jeremy Zawodny titled "You're welcome to google on Yahoo." The entry was in response to Google's attempt to get people to not overly generalize the word "google" which got a lot of attention this week because Google blogged about it on their official site (even though the news itself is actually pretty old).
As I was listening to the radio on the way to work, the reporter started to talk about "google bombs". My first thought was that people might be trying to hack Google, but then I realize that they were talking about search engines being tricked by political campaigns to return negative attacks on opposition candidates. The tactic is that if you are X running against Y then you put up a lot of pages that speaks negatively about Y so that when users search for "Y" they would find bad things written by X. This really didn't have anything to do with Google and has a distinctly negative connotation.

It is this type of usage that I believe Google is trying to prevent against. Imagine what other companies might do if their names were being used completely out-of-context in a negative way... Although I often find that people give Google a little too much credit, in this case I actually admire that they attempted to explain their action to the public in a way to help people understand. Too often, the languages use by company when they try to justify their actions are either too full of legal speak or they just don't say anything to the public at all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lost Season 3

I just watched the season 3 premier of Lost and while it was a pretty good episode, I can't help but keep thinking... "Why is Jack being such a cry baby...?"

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Volkswagon commercials

Those new Volkswagon commercial really annoy me.  It seems to be a scare tactic because the commercial doesn't really give information on what might make their cars safer then others.  In fact, can't I interpret their commercial to mean that if I own an Volkswagon then I'm more likely to get into a car accident?

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Updated Homepage

After nearly 5 years, I finally made a major update to the homepage. Some might be wondering what the heck I'm smoking since the page looks nearly identical to the previous version and that was the intention. The changes were mostly under the covers as I dragged myself into the modern web layout world by going with a CSS table-less layout. Besides learning more about CSS layout, there are other benefits.

  • The code layout is better as the content and presentation is better seperated and there are no more inline CSS styles.

  • The size of the download has been reduced by nearly 50% although I did include some YUI CSS libraries to help clean up the fonts. This brought the initial size to about the original but once the page is loaded the first time those libraries won't be downloaded again.

  • The page should look consistent between IE and Mozilla. By applying a different stylesheet, the page should also render in other devices.

It was more difficult to code, however, but that could be that the original was such as simple table design.

It's good to give myself a refresher on CSS and layout. I've been looking at more advanced JavaScript such as OOP Javascript and DOM manipulation, so hopefully I'll be able to find some time to experiment some on the site soon.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Open source on Windows

I've been looking around at various open source IM clients such as GAIM and Miranda since I want to learn how IM clients are implemented. I downloaded the source for both and tried to compile both. GAIM is supported on multiple platform while Miranda is an Windows-only IM client. Compiling GAIM on Linux was basically running "make" and everything compiles. Compiling it on Windows was more complicated but GAIM has updated their site to include a script that will download all the various components that are needed in addition to the GAIM source. This made it a lot simpler to get a working compile, but even without the script the site had decent instructions on what was needed. For most UNIX/Linux open source projects except the most advanced and complicated, compiling the source code is pretty straight forward and it allows newbies to dive into the code.

Windows open-source projects, on the other hand, are different. The last few projects I've tried to compile were filled with problems. One problem is that there is no standard development environment for Windows. UNIX has the GCC suite which is open source and easily obtainable (if not already on the system) while Windows' primary development environment is the commercial Visual Studio tools. The developers themselves seem to not have standardize on a single platform. Miranda, for example, is developed on MingW by some and Visual C++ by others. Microsoft also doesn't make it any easier despite releasing the free Visual Studio express editions (which they admits isn't meant for windows development anyway).

Thus, my attempt to compile Miranda wasn't too successful (I don't normally do much development on Windows so I'm not as familar with it to begin with.). I installed Visual C++ Express only to find out that I also needed the Platform SDK. Once that installed, I still needed other things, but it wasn't clear to me where I get them. In the end, I wasn't able to compile my own working executable. I'm sure I'll be able to with a little more research, but it definitely takes a lot more work then on Linux.

While Microsoft talks about the importance of the developers, they really mean commercial developers. While they are doing many things to try to fend off open source competitors, they should really go back and do something OS vendors used to do (and UNIX vendors still do): include development tools as part of the OS.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Getting Linux to work in Portrait mode...

This weekend I swapped out my 17" LCD (Dell 1705FP) with a 19" (Dell 1905FP) version that can be used in portrait mode. There is not particular reason why I used the portrait mode other then desktop space. I first tested it in Windows and it was just a matter of plugging it in and then using the Nvidia control panel to set the rotation to portrait.

I then switched over to Linux (Fedora Core 5) and ran into a few snags. There was a dependency conflict between the latest nvidia driver and the kernel I had installed and so the system was starting up with just the native nv drivers. Once that was resolved, I realized that the Linux version of the control panel didn't have the options that the Windows version had including the ability to rotate. It took awhile, but with the help of a friend and Linux guru, i was able to get Linux to go into portrait mode.

First, to get the Rotation option to appear in the Nvidia control panel, I had to add to the Device section:

Option "RandRRotation" "on"

This gave me the option to change the location once I log in, but the problem is that until I do everything appeared in landscape mode so I would have to tilt my head 90 degrees in order to log in and get to the contral panel.

Digging around the Nvidia drivers appendix, I found the option to have X rotate automatically on startup:

Option "Rotate" "left"

This did the trick and I now have less strain on my neck, but then I noticed that things were a bit off on the screen. I realized that Linux was running the driver at 75hz refresh rate which is supported by the monitor but LCDs run optimally at 60hz. I had selected the right monitor, but checking the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, the monitor section have a range for the VertRefresh rate up to 76hz. This is ok, but Linux only used 75hz and didn't let me select anything different. Even when I modified the VertRefresh to just 60, it still used 75.

Again, my friend came to the rescue and suggested I added the following to the Device section:

Option "UseEdidFreq" "false"

Restarting X and all was well. ^^b

I'm still getting used to having my monitor taller then it is wide, but the only troublesome thing is finding wallpapers for it!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

MS doesn't want you to code for Windows?

I like the idea that Microsoft decided to release the express editions of their development tools for free to encourage people to program on Windows (although this doesn't mean I like Windows). I thought it was a smart move for them to lower the barrier to build for the platform since the other alternatives are gcc and mingw which are both very nice but not the easiest to use for newbies. Then I discovered that if you install the express edition, you can't actually write any native windows application.... Huh???

Instead, one has to download the Microsoft Windows Platform SDK seperately before you can use VC++ Express Edition to write Windows program.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Web 2.0?!?

The Web has gone through many cycles but there seems to have always been two main groups that influenced it's direction: engineers and publishers. The web started out as static content but it was originally a realm of the engineers who learned HTML and coded everything by hand. To publish something, you need to understand computers and possibly had to set up your own web server.

As it grew it fell into the publishers' hands as they started investing into online business. A lot of early commercial sites were simply online publications where the layout reflected that of magazines and newspapers. I wonder how much real growth in the industry happened during this time other then that the web go prettier?

The next cycle shifted back towards engineers as they transformed web sites into web applications. This is when the web really became "useful" and began to be part of our daily lives. Now the web isn't just for looking at information, it allowed us to find information. We didn't just read financial news on the web, but now we can trade stocks on the web.

I think now we might at another transition point. The web as an "application" is more the norm then a new idea. It's a proven commodity and that means the publishers are now wanting to get back on board and take over. The result is that they've coined the term "Web 2.0". Web 2.0 seems to me that it's just publishers saying that they want to be the ones putting stuff on the Web. I'm not necessarily opposed to it, but Web 2.0 has nothing to do with technology.
As Yahoo! rolls out their new homepage design, I've been asking various friends what their thoughts are on the new look-and-feel. The reactions has been mixed although none have been outright negative. Initially, I thought that those who didn't like the new look was because it was such a big change and change is not always welcomed. Some things aren't necessarily the best, but they work and people can get what they need out of them without much thinking.

After awhile, I started to ask myself why is it that I liked the new Yahoo homepage and while there are many different reasons, I thought that maybe one of the reason is that Yahoo homepage is beginning to be more of an "application" then an online publication.

As a software engineer, I like building applications and I'm not so inclined to build online content. One is a problem that challenges me while the other is equivalent of data entry (remember that this is from the perspective of engineers who aren't being paid to be creative writers so they are usually handed the content from "writers" and are told by non-engineers to "implement" the articles).

I guess I'm saying that I liked the web initially because it was more about programming (software engineer). Then it became more about content layout and it got boring (web developers). As the balance went back towards programming and application, it became challenging again (frontend engineers).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Yahoo Messenger 8.0

The new Yahoo! Messenger is out. The biggest change is its ability to load user created plug-ins. Everything besides the base functionality is a plug-in and users can create their own. I can see this really expanding the power of Y!M, but can it overcome established IM clients which offers many of the same things? Sometimes, I feel that the feature war is one the Cold War where eventually people forget the purpose and just ends up doing stuff for the sake of keeping busy and the status quo.

That's why I like Google Talk. It's not jumping into the feature war, but going after the simple but effective philosophy that has worked for UNIX for so long. I also like Trillian which allows me to talk to multiple IM providers (Yahoo, AIM, MSN), has a nicer interface then most "official" clients, and just has the features I want to use. In the long run, I feel that this is the winning strategy.

I think we can learn from the success of Trillian and to an extent Google Talk (not enough mass adoption to be called a success yet). An interesting case study might be GAIM. Here was a open-source application that was really ready to take off and become a leader in my opinion. Although the UI could've been better (I prefer Trillian's look), it was one of those "it just works" programs that could've hooked users. However, it's been stagnant in its development. 6 months goes by without any updates on its official site and each beta release takes ages. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that the project was dead and why would I use a dying application?

Update: I just want to clarify that I do realize that there is development going on with GAIM. I can check the source control and see that changes are taking place. However, even though I am a developer, this isn't my area of focus so I don't usually go looking at the change logs. I go to the web site every so often and see if there are any important changes or news. After many months of no updates, I start feeling like the project is dying which happens to most software projects since not one important change has happened that is worthy of being put on the web site.  To me, none of this is a big deal.  GAIM is pretty cool and if it works, I'll use it.  If it doesn't, I'll look for something else.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Microsoft iPod Design

This video is hilarious but oh so true... While it uses Microsoft as the target, it's a great example of just how designers sometime simply over-designs.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Need to try QEMU

Many of my friends who have recently gotten the new Intel-based Macs and they've been going ga-ga over Parallel's virtualization software that lets them run WinXP inside of OSX.  I don't have a Mac-Intel, but I would like to be able to do this on Linux.  It looks like there are a few choices, but I ran into this article about installing QEMU which is a emulation software that the review claims runs pretty fast.  Another option that seems to be Xen which is a virtualization software for x86.

A few things still bothers me about my current linux desktop is that the video drivers/software still aren't as good as their windows counterpart.  It seems that I can still do more with the windows set of drivers from Nvidia then the linux drivers.  I'm sure there are some manual tweaks that I can do directly to the configuration but I haven't had as much time.  This basically means that I can run WinXP on Linux, but the visual look isn't as nice as it looks on being on Windows natively.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Video @ Yahoo!

Haven't had any time to really write recently because of work and other things going on, but check out the latest change to Yahoo! Video.  It's pretty neat and reposition to take on youtube.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The world's information.

Google's traditional mission statement is to "organize the world's information." Yahoo has never been as much about organizing information as much as it is about finding information (original Yahoo portal), centralizing personal information (My Yahoo), and generating information.

Google has recently launched some pretty cool things. Even though I work for Yahoo, I don't hesitate to say it when Google launches good stuff. Good stuff is good stuff!

The world need both companies. Yahoo can generate the content and let Google organize it. ^^

Check out Google's latest toys and the new Yahoo! Homepage.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Aimed at helping consumers with technology, Yahoo launched which is something like CNet.  It looks pretty good although they are using Flash (I tend not to like Flash) and that the layout has some bugs on my Linux-based Firefox.  Check it out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Visual Studios Express

Microsoft has decided to permantly make their Visual Studio Express editions free from their previous "it's free if you download it within a certain time period".  I guess now it makes more sense.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

XP Blue Screen

In theory, WinXP is suppose to prevent letting software crash the OS and seeing the dreaded Blue Screen of Death and overall I guess I do see less blue screens then previous versions. However, software drivers can still crash the OS which I found out recently. It took awhile before I tracked it down to a buggy network card driver. WinXP detected my Netgear FA312 ethernet card on installation and even Windows Update didn't find anything more recent drivers. However, I was starting to see random freezes and crashes to blue screen with the message: DRIVER_IRQ_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL. It took me awhile before I found someone on the web mentioning that he had the same problem and it was caused by a buggy network driver.

I went to Netgear's site and downloaded the 1.8 version of the driver and so far things look better. I'm mainly writing this to remind myself that if I ever had to reinstall winxp again to not forget to update the driver.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Anime fest

Over the past two weeks, I've been doing some serious anime watching. ^^; Some of the anime were ones I've not seen before and some is just re-watching what I had already but finally got on DVD. What I've watched recently:

Samurai Deeper Kyo (full season)

Inuyasha (season 1 & 2)


Maison Ikkoku

Marmalade Boy

Slam Dunk

Burst Angel

Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk was a huge manga in the late 80s and early 90s. If Dragon Ball was the hit of the 80s, Slam Dunk was the next huge hit. I remember seeing it everywhere, and I remember that I was skeptical about how good a manga about a Japanese high school basketball team can be. One day, I was bored and decided to rent the first two mangas and I was hooked. I eventually bought the entire series and even years later, I still enjoy going back and reading it. The anime came out around 1993 and there were some early fansubs of a few episodes and the movies (which were disappointing). At the time there weren't any LDs of the TV series so all of the fansubs were based on fairly poor VCR recordings with mono sounds!

I haven't kept up with the later fansubs, but then the domestic rights were picked up by Geneon. This weekend I picked up the first two DVDs of Slam Dunk. The anime was done very well and was exceptionally faithful to the manga even down to the art. If you read the manga, you will recognize the scenes except now they are animated. The subtitles are like close captions since it even describe emotions (i.e. "shocked gasp") and overall there weren't much extra effort put in to the DVD. There are basically 5 episodes per DVD and no chapter stops within each episode. There are no extras, no trailers, nothing. Still, the anime itself is very enjoyable and the translation is good.

For such a huge hit that it was, I'm baffled as to why Geneon does not promote this series at all. There's absolutely no mention of it on their site other then a press release and it's not listed among their offerings. Have they decided to stop releasing beyond the 4 DVDs that's out there?

Friday, April 7, 2006

Linux Desktop

I've never really used Linux as a "desktop" system. Instead it has always been a "server" where I would run web servers, database servers, file servers, etc. With the new box, I've actually connected it to my monitor using a KVM switch so for the very first time it can potentially be used as a desktop system.

Basic things such as browsing with Firefox, etc. worked out-of-the-box on Fedora Core 5, but one area that I've never used Linux for was to play video and sound. I downloaded the VLC player from (which also hosts RPM packages for ATI and Nvidia video drivers) to see how well it can play some of the media files that I have. The files played without any problems, so I was very pleased, but I haven't tried it on any Windows media files which I heard did have problem on 64bit linux.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Backing up Windows

After the painful process of reinstalling WinXP, I felt compelled to do what I can to avoid repeat doing this again in the future. I figure that what I needed was a disk imaging program to backup my windows partition so that I can just restore it without having to go through the install process again.

I've used Norton Ghost before, but the version I had wasn't very good. Setting up a bootable CD wasn't easy and it required me to go to DOS in order to backup. New versions might not need to do this.

My criteria were that it must be easy to use, can automatically backup to CD/DVDs, can easily create bootable rescue disk, and can restore the backup without Windows. I settled on True Image and tonight I tested it out. The reviews were favorable and wasn't too complicated.

My first three CDs went into the trash. I finally set the priority to "Normal" (from the default "Low") and was able to burn the backup CDs. The aborted writes before changing the setting were very annoying since there was no explanation given as to why they failed. True Image also installed an annoying animated icon in the task tray which I found to be distracting. I took out the various startup commands since I don't need to do scheduled backups on this computer. Once I changed the settings, everything worked without a hitch.

Finally, I feel like I've gotten the different boxes up-and-running.

Postgres vs Oracle

Here is an article regarding Postgres vs. Oracle from the DBA perspective. It's good to see professionals starting to look at the merits of open source database alternatives instead of just MySQL.

Windows On Mac hardware

A good move on Apple's part to release tools letting Mac hardware dual boot either Windows or OSX. One of the reasons for Linux's early adoption was it's ability to be dual-booted along with the user's original OS, so this can encourage more people adopting Macs. However, there is a difference between Linux and Macs. Linux had dual boot because people already had the hardware and wanted a better OS without necessarily having to completely sacrafice the old OS. In this case, people have the OS and software and will be buying hardware to run it. I guess Apple's hope is that they'll start trying out OSX and eventually migrate over.

Windows XP Install

Now that I've completed setting up the linux box, it was time to clean up the windows box since it'll now be used for a different purpose. Setting up Linux was very quick and easy despite FC5 occupying 6 CDs. Windows XP comes on 1 CD and it should be noted that it's being installed on an older computer then the Linux box.

The first thing I had to do was install Windows 2000 since I only had the Windows XP Upgrade CD. For some reason, the Windows Upgrade CD wouldn't boot directly on the computer so I was forced to go through this process (the Win2k was also an upgrade but I can boot and just put in win98 when it asked for verification of an older version of Windows). Once Win2k was up, I used it to start the WinXP installer. I probably could've found the answer somewhere on the web, but the installer automatically copied setup files to the C:\ partition which I didn't want since I wanted to format that cleanly before installing WinXP. With the setup files on C:\, I couldn't format the partition while I was in Windows. So, I basically had to boot into win2k, clean up the files on the C:\ partition, install winXP, then delete the Win2k stuff since it still took up space. This process took roughly 1.5 hours.

Once Windows XP was up, I was prompted to activate it. I put in the product code and... no go. It tells me to call Microsoft. Windows XP was previously on this computer and I'm just reinstalling but I guess MS feels I need their approval. So, I call their number, goes through the process and they tell me a long series of numbers to enter and now Windows is "activated".

Similiar to what I did after I installed Fedora, I immediately went to get all the updates for Windows. With FC, it was a simple "yum update". With Windows, it was Windows Update, but first it needed to figure out what updates I needed. The first two sets were patches that required a reboot each time. On the third update (each update is manually initiated by me), it began to download Windows XP SP2 followed by a long install (long enough for me to leave the computer, do something else and come back right when it finished). Another reboot and it was time to get more updates. I lost track of how many more reboots it required but after about 5 hours, Windows XP installation was done! Now I remember why I've been so reluctant to reinstall windows... I'm almost afraid to use it until I can come up with a good backup system/restore disk so that I don't have to go through the process again! I think there are options such as Norton Ghost but if there are other solutions, please let me .

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Fedora Core 5 + AMD64

So I'm now officially in the world of 64bit computing! Having grabbed the Fedora Core 5 CDs for 64bit processors, I did my first installation onto my new machine and it was pretty sweet. The Shuttle is definitely more quiet then most desktops (didn't really compare against the Sonata box, though), but not quite as silent as the Mac Mini.

The last time I installed Fedora Core, I felt it was already fairly easy to install except I did run into a snag with my CDROM that I had to search around the web for a bit to resolve. The formatting, partitioning, and package installation took a bit of time, but it was all automated so didn't require any intervention on my part. When setting up the new box, I was a bit unsure about whether there would be any trouble with the hard drive since in the past large capacity hard drives always seem to introduce some setup issues.

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. This has definitely been the easiest linux install I've ever done. I simply inserted the install CDs and let it rip. It went extremely fast, and the whole process took roughly 30 minutes and I installed a lot of packages. Once it was done, the system booted into X without a hitch (i did have to change the refresh rate from the display control panel).

I ran a yum update to get the latest patches (~100Megs worth), grabbed the latest nvidia driver (make sure to have a new kernel then the original that shipped with FC5 since that kernel doesn't allow non-GPL modules), configured Apache and Samba through the control panel and I was done!

Honestly, I'm pretty impressed. I had expected to start the installation, go to work and finish everything when I came home. I still need to transfer the old files over to the new machine, figure out what to do with the old server, and do some customizations but as of now I have a fully enabled 64bit linux machine running. :-)

I still need to figure out how to deal with playing media files since many 64bit apps don't have the 64bit plugins and aren't able to load 32bit plugins. I'll probably have to use some of the apps in their 32bit form which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Posting comments

I realized today that comments were disabled on this blog (not that people actually write any coments ^^;).  I guess it was disabled when I upgraded Wordpress.  Anyway, it's on again.

Monday, April 3, 2006


I've been getting back into anime recently and have been catching up on a number of series as well as revisiting old ones.  This weekend I re-watched Samurai Deeper Kyo after getting the box set.  The first time I watched it, the translation was horrible and I couldn't quite figure out what was happening at the end.  With better translation, this series is definitely more enjoyable!  The voice acting for Kyo is pretty amazing.  There are a lot of famous voice actors that fans of anime will quickly recognize.
I've also been trying to catch up on Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha.  The first season turned out to be quite good and I enjoy the characters and story so far.

Both series are worth checking out but each is very different in feel to the other.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

New PC

I finally bit the bullet and decided to replace my old (but still reliable) pentium 2 Linux box. I have one computer with the Antec Sonata case and it's very quiet, but this time I wanted something small, quiet yet still be powerful to last me for a while. I decided to build my own using a Shuttle PC barebone system. I picked the SN95G5V3 since I wanted to go with a AMD 64 processor and I didn't want to invest in a new PCI-E video card when I had an extra AGP card lying around.

I picked up a AMD 3500, Pioneer DVD burner ($60), Seagate 500GB SATA HDD ($270), and 1gig Cosair DDR memory module (single so I can add another gig later on without having to dump this one). The price was decent and it took me about an hour to put everything together. Now, the only problem is that I have no OS for it...

I plan on running Linux on it, of course, but I haven't downloaded it yet so here I sit with a pretty awsome little machine and not being able to turn it on! ^^;

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mail redirect for Thunderbird

Eudora has a nice feature that lets users redirect email to another account and now I stumbled across an extension that allows Thunderbird to do the same thing: 


It's late at night so what am I doing...? Reading up on Postgres, of course! Postgres is an open-source relational database that has been around for a long time, but initially it was a very academic project that was somewhat difficult to install and use. That was about 3-4 years ago and since then it has made a huge amount of progress. A lot of people use mysql because it is (1) fast, (2) easy to use, and (3) easy to install. I think (2) and (3) are two of the big factors in its popularity. Performance is also an factor, I'm sure, but how many small website that uses MySQL are really hit by performance issues where they can notice the difference between MySQL and some other database?

Last year, I decided to try out the latest release of Postgres (8.0) on a Linux box, and instead of using a pre-built package, I decided to install it from source! This was what I use to do with MySQL, too. Well, after downloading the source package and running the simple command everything was up and running! It felt as easy if not easier then installing MySQL.

This weekend, following a memory upgrade to my notebook, I decided to try installing Postgres again but this time on a Windows(tm) machine. Postgres now has a native windows port and an installer. One click to to start the setup followed by a few clicks of the "OK" button and Postgres is now running on my notebook. So simple...

There has been a lot of misconceptions about Postgres left from people's experience 5 years ago. 5 years is like another era in Internet time. I think I'm going to use Postgres wherever I use to use MySQL. I'll update my experience with this database as I work with it more.

My techie weekend

Heading into the weekend, I decided that I needed to get in touch with my techie side. ^^ I've been focused a lot on process and project planning at work recently and really needed to step away and let my mind concentrate on something else. I had a list of ideas that I wanted to do and I did get a good start on them.

I spent a lot of time this weekend reading about GAIM development as well as programming with Mozilla. GAIM is more straight forward but I really need to get a better grasp of GTK+ programming before I feel that I can make any headway. I played with the source a little and got the environment set up and I'm now working to understand how things work. I realize that GNOME have been working to establish a standard UI and best practices, but I still think the look of it is... not that great....

I also spent time looking at XUL programming and Mozilla. There's some interesting technologies associated with this, but the documentation on them is confusing. Part of it might be the terminology and also because projects are moving so fast that a lot of documentation are out-dated. Frankly, I wasn't sure where to start.

JavaScript have come a long way from when I first used it and the DOM specification have brought web development to a new level. It excited me as I was studying this to see how much more mature the field is and what it is capable of. Web development is now so far from just doing page layout with HTML and adding some roll-over images that everyone should recognize that web developers (truly good ones) requires the full set of software programming skills as any other software engineer. In fact, at work, I've stopped using the term "web developer" and more "frontend engineer" because the tasks these individuals are doing are programming projects. Traditional software engineers can also do these tasks but they would have to spent a considerable amout of time reading the many standards and specifications.

I've also spent a lot of time dealing with spammers. Man, I really dislike spammers. I'm ok with legitmate companies sending out emails, but spammers that tries to flood you and invade your privacy are parasites. Spam is one of the reason I changed email clients, upgraded this blog and spent part of my weekend changing my slickedit forum. When will spammers get that people don't read their crap?

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Yahoo! UI library and Design Pattern

Although I'm a little late in writing about this, but the Yahoo Developer's Network continues to release new products to the community. The User Interface Library has been released with the BSD license to allow building modern interactive websites. In addition, Yahoo released their Design Pattern Library.

I hope things like these will help demonstrate that Yahoo is indeed a tech company.

Monday, February 20, 2006

How we organize information.

I was writing in my pocket notebook (the paper kind) when a co-worker jokingly asked me where is the search function? I started thinking about the increasing amount of information (especially in electronic form) that we're faced with and how we organize them. Then I started to wonder... do we need to organize anymore? Before computers, it was necessary to organize information using some kind of system like a file cabinet, but it was quickly discovered that no matter how we organize not everything fit into the system nicely. The system didn't scale and so creative cross-index schemes was needed to deal with all the information. Similiar methodology was applied to computer systems from file systems to basic things such like how we organize emails, but we've now hit the inherent limitation of this method. There is now simply too much information for a person to try to organize.

That brings me back to my original question. Is it necessary to organize information at all? Can we rely only on searching algorithms? When I look for an email, I often use search instead of navigating the directory structure I've set up for storing email. When I look for a file, I often use "locate" or "find" instead of relying on my understanding of the directory structure. Once I stepped away from trying to figure out where a particular piece of information should go, my productivity improved because I only need to focus on how I can retrieve the information when I needed it .

Does that mean we don't need to organize information anymore? Should every file or email just be in a single big directory and we would just use a search algorithm? My answer is no. Ultimately we still need some form of organization because of our need to process and sort information. Our brain needs some sort of structure to aid it, but it is clear that setting up categories and expecting everything to fit nicely in one of the pre-defined categories doesn't work.

I'm starting to see the next generation of categorization that uses the computer's ability to search while letting users still browse and have a structured view of the information. "Tagging" is a term popularized by Flickr to allow users to assign keywords to pictures. Pictures that have the same tag (or a set of tags) forms a collection, but because an item can have multiple tags a picture can fit into many different collections depending on the views and needs of the user. EverNote, a note taking program, doesn't use tags but it represent a similiar concept using the abilities of the computer. In addition to setting up traditional categories, EverNote also allows users to define "keyword" categories which allows users to define attributes of the notes that should fall into those categories. For example, I might write a note to describe "company holiday party" and instead of trying to decide whether it goes into "holiday events" and "company events", my rules will fit the note into both categories. Thus, depending on why I'm looking for the note, I will go to the category most natural to my needs.

I'm still adjusting to this method, but I'm excited to see more applications adapt the method and see its effects.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Free lunch?

So some telecom companies are saying how companies like Google are using their lines for free while they spent money building the network lines. What a bogus claim. Haven't those companies been selling the ability to access sites like Google as part of their marketing? It is also very hard for me to imagine that these companies aren't already making money in some way from their data lines. I, for one, do not get my access to the Internet for free. I pay a monthly fee to my ISP which happens to be... a telecom company.  It feels like double charging to me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wordpress 2.x

I finally got around to upgrading to Wordpress 2.x. It just so happened that 2.0.1 was just released so I figure I'll upgrade. It turned out to be a pretty smooth upgrade and things seems to be working. The WYSIWYG editor is cool but not necessarily something I really care about (although as I use it more I might appreciate it more).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Locked out

As I sit on my porch at 7pm because I locked myself out of the house (don't ask), I ponder what to do with my time. Hurray for the internet! I figure I'll talk about some of the news that caught my attention.

The Bears lost after scoring 21 points at home?!?

The Seahawks are in the Superbowl?!? I think the Red Sox broke more then just their own curse.

Two upsets in in the NFL conference championships and a double overtime basketball game with the combined scores over 300 and the headline topic is... Kobe. To think that a single player can score 81 points in a game is incredible and he didn't do it in a blow out either. The Lakers were down 18 when Kobe began to demolish the opposition and ended up winning by 15 or something. Maybe it's time to pay Google to watch that game.

Who is number 1 in online search right now? Of course, it's Google. Who can dispute it? Yahoo won't but that doesn't mean Yahoo is happy with #2. Trust me that those at Yahoo! wants to be #1 in search and in everything else they do, too. BTW, I love Reebok (I'm serious).

Apple (powered by Intel)... ok, why not? Feel free to send me a MacBook. ^^ While we're at it, I wouldn't mind a AMD64bit Linux Shuttle box either. Gotta love UNIX!

Seattle is like a mini-San Francisco but with more water falling from the sky. Microsoft's campus reminds me of government offices but that's appropriate for the Empire. I think it might be time to rename their House of Tomorrow to House of Standard Features.

Mickey Mouse only uses the iPod.

Wifi is a great thing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Google Pack

Google announced the "Google Pack" which is a collection of applications (from Google and others) that they feel are useful for the computer. This isn't a new or "innovative" idea, but it is a good idea. How many of us also have a collection of software that we install every time we setup a new computer for ourselves, family and friends? Many of the applications in the Google Pack are software that I normaly install and what Google Pack is providing is one-stop shopping which can be a real convenience.

What I would like to see, however, is different types of packages for consumers, developers, etc. It would also be interesting to see if Google would be willing to offer alternatives in each software category such as desktop search (Google Desktop, Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc.). Before giving me the "why would they push competitor's software, consider that they already offer Trillian and Google Talk (Trillian Pro has Jabber support and thus can talk to the Google IM network), or if not a competitor then open source alternatives such as GAIM? What I like so far is that the pack seems to be a developer/computer user's view of some good software for people. It's when it becomes companies paying Google to be included in the pack that the trust and value of this will diminish. I hope that won't happen. Rather then looking at this as another way to generate revenue, it would be great if this project is aimed more at getting people using the computer (easier to be online and improving the experience) so that they gain by growing the market.

Not knowing how they picked and tested the software, I like to think that with the big repository of knowledgable techies that they really thoroughly tested all the software for quality, spyware/adware, and privacy issues since the average user simply does not have the resources necessary to figure out if a software is trustworthy and safe.

This is also a great opportunity for Google to ease into desktop software development. I believe that Google will start to face a number of consumer issues they haven't needed to face before. Already criticism of the "suite" not being very unified and the interfaces aren't consistent have surfaced. Some are valid and some are not, but it's something that software companies faces all the time and Google can begin to learn from it by getting familiar with what the users want in a more gentle way since this is only a "pack" and not a Google "suite".

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thunderbird 1.5

Thunderbird 1.5 have been released. The release notes can be found here. This apps has definitely come a long way even while always being in the shadows of Firefox.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Got a xbox360... controller

xbox360 controller

Having been thinking about getting a game pad for my computer, I decided to pick up the xbox360 controller for windows on impulse. Although somewhat on the expensive side of controller's, I figure if I ever do get a xbox360, I'd wouldn't have to spend money on a second controller.

The 360 controller works on both the console and Windows. It seems to be just a USB controller. At the store, there are those labeled for the 360 and Windows. The difference is that the windows version has a CD with the drivers while the 360 ones don't. The price should be the same for each but some places sells the windows version at a higher price. If so, get the 360 version and download the driver from Microsoft for free.

What I look for in a controller first is the feel. I want something that feels solid in my hand and the 360 controller meets that criteria very well. It feels like it's designed for frequent use (a console controller afterall) and not a secondary gaming device like many gamepads for the PC. Fortunately, MS seemed to learned from their original mistake and the size of the controller is closer to the "S" type controller of the original xbox. The button layout is similiar and feels responsive.

Setting up the controller meant plugging it in. It is very basic as is the software. In fact, I hesitate to say that it comes with software at all. It comes with the software driver for Windows (MS should say so on their website). There is no ability to macro anything, or do anything other then calibrate it. For the price, I'd expect something beyond just a driver.

The triggers are responsive, but I was baffled that they aren't considered "buttons" but rather Z-axis movement controls. I'm not sure if this is the same with all gamepads or what but I'd like to use them as buttons in my games. They are comfortable to use but in FFXI, they aren't used for anything. Without anyway to reprogram the controller, they are essentially useless. The left-and-right shoulder buttons also requires the hands to move a little in order to press them. None of the other button required me to adjust my hold in anyway. There is also a XBOX logo button in the middle of the game pad that does... absolutely nothing. On the xbox it is functional, on the PC not even the software driver recognizes it.

The pad also has a connector for the xbox headset. I don't know if this works on the PC as I have no headset to test with.

The xbox360 controller for Windows is a very basic 10-button (plus 2 triggers) USB game pad. It is solid in construction and comfortable. The lack of software really hurts it in comparison to other cheaper offerings. For those who might get an xbox360 and want a wired version of the controller and have a PC, this might be worth it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Holiday Shopping

Since it is a new year, I decided to do some computer upgrades. Starting with the memory, I upgraded one machine from 512megs to 1.5gigs of memory. I saw a rebate at Fry's so the upgrade only costs me around $60 for a 1 gig of Kingston 400MHz DDR pair. As I installed the memory, I realized just how quiet the Antec Sonata case is (good thing since that was the reason I picked it). I was tempted to upgrade the linux server to a Sonata case or possibly Shuttle case, but held myself back because it'll take about $1k for the cases, memory, HDD, etc.

The 'ol P2-300Mhz linux box is still chugging fine along after all these years. It is a little slow, but overall it is still able to handle the job. It's fairly quiet compared to many modern machines, but the sound is noticable when it is the only machine on in the room. I did decide to take out the CDRW drive out of the box and replace it with a Toshiba DVD burner that was also on sale at Fry's since I have files on the box that I wish to archive to a DVD but don't want to copy it all to my main box first.

Linux was able to recognize the drive at boot and auto-mounted when I put in a CD, so I thought I was in good shape. However, I kept seeing a wierd errors in my message log. I added hdx=ide-scsi to the boot parameter and the message went away and I was still able to read and write a CD, but when I try to burn a DVD using the .iso file I created, it wouldn't work. While I'm still trying to figure it out, Mac suggested that I download Nero for linux and try that. I think I will but then... the requirements are P3-500Mhz! (T_T)

Sigh... oh, well. Guess it's back to figuring out why cdrecord won't write to the media. >_<

A few things have been tempting my gadget senses. A Shuttle system with an AMD 64-bit FX chip would sure be nice on my desk. ^^ There's some nice looking 19"+ LCD monitors that look mighty fine, and I admit that I'm curious about Mac on Intel running OSX.

Urgh, why do I torture myself... ^^;

Monday, January 2, 2006

WMF bug (bad design)

An exploit has been released onto the web to take advantage of Windows Meta Format (wmf) files. Microsoft awhile back decided to allow executable code in their image files, so crackers are exploiting it by installing trojans inside wmf files. This problem is bad in a few different ways. First, it doesn't require user intervention to get hit by this. Using IE to view an malicious file will automatically execute the code. If you have Google Desktop installed and simply download the malicious file it will also execute automatically when Google indexes the file. Even Firefox can potentially be affected by this if it automatically execute the file type, but fortunate it defaults to prompting users first before it executes. Still, this is a very bad design on Microsoft's part and they don't have a patch for it. However, there is a temporary work around which is to disable the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.

Here is the Microsoft security advisory.

The work around is to:

Click Start, click Run, type "regsvr32 -u %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll" (without the quotation marks), and then click OK.
After a security update has been released and deployed, you can undo this change and re-register Shimgvw.dll by following the above steps. Replace the text in Step 1 with “regsvr32 %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll�? (without the quotation marks).

This doesn't eliminate the problem since opening up a bad file with MS Paint will execute the malicious code but this would help somewhat against getting hit by a trojan accidentally as an user surfs the web.

F-secure has a good blog with updates on the situation.

Update: Microsoft released their patch here.